On 24 July, participating in the first ever Global Disability Summit, WFD committed to help create more inclusive political environments that invite and support the participation and leadership of persons with disabilities. Ongoing and future WFD programmes operating across a network of over 30 developing countries will support accessible electoral processes, improved representation within political parties, as well as the design and delivery of policies that invest in the best possible outcomes for persons with disabilities, working closely with political parties, parliaments and civil society.
The Global Disability Summit helped raise the profile of disability as a critical issue for organisations working in the field of international development and democracy assistance. 15% of the world’s population or 1 in 7 people, are disabled, 80% of whom live in the developing world, including in most of countries where WFD works to support the establishment of effective multi-party democracy. If we are committed to meeting international development goals, then persons with disabilities should be just as able to seek political office or be politically active as anyone else and should be able to vote or express their opinion as easily as anyone else. WFD’s work on disability recognises that the SDGs – which aim to “leave no one behind” – can only be permanently achieved within the context of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). WFD was proud sign the Charter for Change and will aim to support national Governments to implement these commitments, and the CRPD, throughout our programming and internally.
WFD’s disability and democracy-specific programmes
In Sierra Leone, WFD has been supporting the full participation and inclusion of PWDs both ahead of and after the March 2018 elections, in collaboration with the Sierra Leone Union on Disability Issues (SLUDI) and other local partners. This included developing a national advocacy agenda, working with political parties to develop inclusive manifestos, carrying out voter education and a nationwide data collection exercise examining the extent to which persons with disabilities have access to public service appointment and can participate in political processes effectively. In Mozambique, WFD has been working with ADEMO (the Mozambican Association of Disabled People) to provide technical advice on advocacy with regards to forthcoming disability legislation. We will also work on disability with civil society and political parties ahead of the October 2019 elections. In Kenya, where WFD has been supporting devolution, we recently started to work with Members of County Assembly (MCAs) to review the level of inclusiveness of democratic governance processes at the county level and developing legislative initiatives to address gaps. WFD is also proud to be leading the new Commonwealth Partnership for Democracy (CP4D)established after the 2018 London Commonwealth Summit. The initiative aims at advancing inclusive politics in 18 Commonwealth developing countries by 2020 and will support a range of initiatives on disability.
Integrating disability in WFD’s programmes and internal processes
WFD’s new Strategic Framework commits to expanding programmes working on the political engagement of minorities and marginalised groups, including persons with disabilities. In 2017, WFD established a Disability Working Group to integrate disability in WFD’s democracy assistance programmes and to develop tools and guidance for WFD internally and our partners. Our focus on disability developed in the context of new WFD disability-specific initiatives supporting the political and policy leadership of persons with disabilities, as well as in recognition of the fact disability is caused by physical and virtual barriers in society which WFD can help remove. As WFD starts to integrate disability-sensitive provisions into the design, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of policies and programmes, we hope to ignite conversations about why disability is something to think about in our day-to-day work and how we can motivate our partners and stakeholders, including parliaments, political parties and civil society we work with, to do the same.
Strands of work
Integrating disability in WFD’s work fully by 2022 will require changes to the way we manage our programmes, knowledge and data. Initial work strands include:
- Conducting proactive outreach to ensure we get people with disabilities in the room and included in our democracy assistance work. This will include engaging and strengthening organisations representing the interest of persons with disabilities with the skills, tools and resources they need to take part in political processes as well as ensuring our venues and materials are accessible.
- Supporting advocacy and other efforts to eliminate stigma and discrimination against persons with disabilities in line with the motto “nothing about us without us”. This will include promoting persons with disabilities as ‘champions for change’ and engaging persons with disabilities to lead high-level democracy assistance initiatives.
- Addressing gaps in our internal knowledge. We have and will continue to learn from organisations such the Sierra Leone Union on Disability Issues (SLUDI). This strand of work will benefit from our learning strategy, adaptive programming and in-house research capability.
- Ensuring we disaggregate our data by disability. This will include integrating the Washington Group Disability Question Sets into our Monitoring, Evaluation and Learning tools to understand how to target our programmes better, as well as contributing to gaps in country-level and internationally comparable disability data.
- Developing evidence on what works for disability inclusion, such as by integrating disability within our Political Economy Analysis (PEA) and existing research and conducting disability specific research. For example, carrying out disability audits of the parliaments we work with, looking at areas such as accessibility and how much disability is considered in oversight and budgeting.
- Considering intersectionality. For example, recognising that women are much more likely to be disabled than men – 19.2% compared to 12% – and women with disabilities face discrimination based upon both their gender and their disability which intersect, creating new more complex forms of discrimination.
WFD is a signatory to the Charter for Change, the principal legacy document of the Global Disability Summit. At the Summit, WFD committed to:
“work towards inclusive political environments that both invite and support the participation and leadership of persons with disabilities through accessible electoral systems; more representative political parties; and parties, parliaments and civil society organisations better able to understand the lived experiences of persons with disabilities and better able to design, deliver and enforce policies that invest in the best possible outcomes for persons with disabilities. This will have a lasting impact by bringing more people with disabilities into political decision-making and into the development of better informed policies and practices. Initial stages of this commitment will be delivered in a number of Commonwealth countries by 2020.”